Liberalism and radicalism in France  

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Liberalism and radicalism in France do not form the same type of ideology. In fact, the main line of conflict in France during the 19th century was between monarchist opponents of the Republic (mainly Legitimists and Orleanists, but also Bonapartists) and supporters of the Republic (Radical-Socialists, "Opportunist Republicans", and later Socialists). Thus, while the Orleanists favored constitutional monarchy and economic liberalism, they were opposed to the Republican Radicals.

However, the Republican, Radical and Radical-Socialist Party (now divided into the center-right Radical Party and the center-left Radical Party of the Left), and, above all, the Republican parties (Democratic Republican Alliance, Republican Federation, National Center of Independents and Peasants, Independent Republicans, Republican Party, Liberal Democracy) have since embraced liberalism, including in its economic version, and nowadays many of these components are active in the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement.



The early high points of liberalism in France were:

In France, as in much of Southern Europe, the word liberal was used during the 19th century either to refer to the traditional liberal anti-clericalism or to economic liberalism. Political liberalism in France was long associated more with the Orleanists and with Republicans in general, then with the Radical Party, leading to the use of the term radicals to refer to the political liberal tradition, and the centre-right Democratic Republican Alliance.

The French Radicals tended to be more statist than most European liberals, but shared the liberal values on other issues, in particular a strong support for individual liberty and secularism, while Republicans were more keen to economic liberalism and less enthusiastic for secularism.

After World War II, the Republicans gathered in the liberal-conservative National Center of Independents and Peasants, from which the conservative-liberal Independent Republicans was formed in 1962. The original centre-left Radical Party was a declining force in French politics until 1972 when it joined the centre-right, causing the split of the left-wing faction and the foundation of the Radical Party of the Left, closely associated to the Socialist Party. The former is now associated with the Union for a Popular Movement.

In 1978 both the Republican Party (successor of the Independent Republicans) and the Radical Party were founding components, alongside the Christian-democratic Democratic Centre, of the Union for French Democracy, an alliance of liberal, Christian democratic, and non-Gaullist centre-right forces.

The Republican Party, re-founded as Liberal Democracy and re-shaped as a free-market libertarian party, left the UDF in 1998 to form a separate party. It merged into the conservative Union for a Popular Movement, of which it represents the libertarian wing. In addition, the Radical Party left the UDF in 2002 in order to join the UMP, of which it is the main social-liberal component, as an associate party. In some ways, the Republican and the Radical traditions are now re-composed in the UMP, which embraces a soft form of neo-liberalism.


19th Century

  • 1818: Former Feuillants formed the party of the Democrats (Démocrates), also named Liberals (Libéraux)
  • 1848: A radical faction organised as the Radicals (Radicaux), which supported the French Second Republic against the liberal Orleanists.

From the Republicans to Liberal Democracy

From the Radicals to the Radical Party

Rally of Left Republicans

Republican Centre

  • 1956: Dissidents from the Radical Party formed the Republican Centre (Centre Républicain)
  • 1974: A faction returned to the Radical Party
  • 1978: The party disappeared

From Movement of Left Radicals to Radical Party of the Left

  • 1972: A left-wing faction of the Radical Party formed the Movement of Left Radicals (Mouvement des Radicaux de Gauche, MRG)
  • 1996: The group Reunite (Réunir) merged into the party, that is renamed Radical-Socialist Party (Parti Radical-Socialiste, PRS)
  • 1998: After another court order the party is renamed Radical Party of the Left (Parti Radical de Gauche, PRG)

Liberals in the Union for a Popular Movement

Liberal Alternative

  • 2006: Liberal Alternative (Alternative Libérale), a new autonomous party, is created by classic liberals.

Liberal and radical leaders

Liberal thinkers

In the Contributions to liberal theory the following French thinkers are included:

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Liberalism and radicalism in France" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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